Two German teams booked their place in UEFA Cup quarter-finals last eight with both Bayer 04 Leverkusen and Werder Bremen winning through.
It is not every day a goalkeeper ends a match with a microphone to his mouth serenading his own fans, but you can forgive René Adler for surfing the wave of celebration as Bayer 04 Leverkusen strode into the UEFA Cup quarter-finals last night.
'We were perfect'
For the first time since 2002, when they reached the UEFA Champions League final, Leverkusen are into the last eight of a UEFA club competition and they got there in style, overturning a 2-1 first-leg deficit against French side RC Lens through three unanswered goals from Andriy Voronin, Sergej Barbarez and Juan. "Tactically we were perfect," said coach Michael Skibbe. "Compliments to my team - that was how football is supposed to be played."
"Things are going well for us," added Voronin, who swept in the first goal and then had a hand in setting up the two that followed against opponents lying second in France's Ligue 1. "We are playing with a solid defence and are taking our chances in front of goal." The Ukrainian forward, who will join Liverpool FC in the summer, continued: "In my last season at Leverkusen I want to go as far as possible."
Leverkusen's supporters were not the only ones in Germany waking up with a smile this morning as Werder Bremen accompanied them into the quarter-finals thanks to a 2-0 home win over RC Celta de Vigo. Bremen owed their victory to second-half strikes from Hugo Almeida and Clemens Fritz which sealed a 3-0 aggregate success. The Bundesliga's second-placed team took time to find their stride, however, and coach Thomas Schaaf admitted: "We tried to dictate the flow of the game from the start but Celta denied us space."
'We showed patience'
Yet Bremen - who entered the UEFA Cup after finishing third behind Chelsea FC and FC Barcelona in their UEFA Champions League group - came good eventually to book their place in Friday's draw in Glasgow for the quarter-finals and semi-finals. "I am pleased we showed the patience we needed in a difficult game," Schaaf went on. "We had problems in the first half but the second half was much better for us."
The last German club to challenge seriously for the UEFA Cup were BV Borussia Dortmund, beaten finalists in 2002. Even if Bremen and Leverkusen fail to go that far, their presence in the last eight is encouraging following recent fears that German sides were struggling to compete with teams from the financially stronger leagues in England, Spain and Italy. With FC Bayern München gearing up for a UEFA Champions League quarter-final against AC Milan, three of the Bundesliga's top six will be chasing the continent's top prizes into April. And it is five years since that last happened.